Main Image: Markazi Jamia Masjid Bilal Mosque, Harehills Lane.
This guest article is from a supporter who wanted to share his experiences of the Harehills area of Leeds. Harehills was in the news again this week as the area with the lowest uptake of the Covid vaccine in the country.
Harehills (pronounced locally as Hare-rills), is an inner-city area of east Leeds. It is about 1 mile north east of Leeds city centre. The area is characterised by its row-after-row of ‘Coronation Street’ style terraced houses. We have added the historical content at the end of his article.
In my youth the area was solidly white working class, although the immigrant population was beginning to grow. By the 1980’s and 90’s, Harehills had a reputation as ‘their’ area, meaning that the immigrants had taken over and it had changed, it was no longer white working class.
Today, Harehills South is a deprived, densely populated and ethnically ‘enriched’ area. Almost 72 per cent of its 8,800 residents are from an ethnic minority, with 31 per cent of the population British Pakistani, according to the Office for National Statistics, though there are also groups from Eastern Europe, Somalia and Iraq.
Harehills also has the lowest Covid vaccine uptake. It has been reported that 69 per cent of people in the area have still not had two doses of the vaccine. Since mid-September, just 20 Covid jabs have been given per 100 people aged over 12 living there, the lowest rate in England. The second lowest – at 24 doses per 100 – is neighbouring Harehills North, which is also ethnically ‘diverse’.
In 2009, a racial Nationalist organisations’ membership list was deliberately leaked. The list, which contained thousands of names, was published on Wikileaks. A comrade of mine, let’s call him John, a working class lad, shared a house in Harehills that had been converted into bedsits. His name and address were on the list.
His neighbour, a rastafarian drug addict, had been shown the list and would come banging on his door at all hours of the day and night making threats. John managed to move eventually, but it was a very stressful time.
According to its own blurb ‘Wikileaks is an international, non-profit whistle-blowing organisation’ that was founded in Iceland in 2006 by Julian Paul Assange. Their stated aim is to ‘bring important news and information to the public.’
When I see the Assange circus on the TV and his celebrity backers saying how he is being persecuted because he holds governments’ to account, I think of John stuck in his bedsit in Harehills, under siege from immigrants. For his sake and all the other little people persecuted for being on that list, I hope Assange is extradited to the US and gets the punishment he deserves.
John was a decent, down-on-his-luck white working class bloke and a Nationalist. Life had been hard on him. He used to come to meetings on a push-bike because he had no money for bus fares. Yet here was Assange and his Wikileaks site publishing his name and address the same way they published leaked video and documents exposing US military strikes on civilians. Pure scum.
History Of The Area
The name Harehills is first mentioned in 1576, as Hayr Hylls. Scholars agree that the second element of the name Harehills is the topographic term ‘hill’. There has been some debate about the first element, however. Eilert Ekwall, in his influential Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names, thought that the name came from the Old English word hār (‘grey’). However, the subsequent research by A. H. Smith for the English Place-Name Society concluded that, as the modern spelling would suggest, the name does originate from hare, and thus originally meant ‘hill characterised by the presence of hares’.
The area began to be developed from the 1820s, when people sought to escape the overcrowding in the centre of Leeds, wide streets and detached houses were envisaged in a plan titled ‘New Leeds’. However, it was closely packed back-to-back housing for workers that came to be built in the 1890s.
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